Thirty-two men’s beach teams are in Owings Mill, Md., this week for the premier men’s college beach event in the country, the USA Volleyball Men’s Beach Collegiate Challenge at Stevenson University.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 11, 2022) – Top-seeded Michael Valenzi/Ryan Merk of Penn State University won the USA Volleyball Men’s Beach Collegiate Challenge at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Md., on Sunday.
In the final, Valenzi/Merk defeated third-seeded Peyten Young/Wesley Blazek of Webber University, 2-1 (21-16, 25-27, 15-13).
Valenzi/Merk finished the tournament with a 7-0 record. The pair finished tied for ninth at the 2021 Men’s Beach Collegiate Challenge.
“It felt great getting to redeem ourselves from last year,” Valenzi said. “But it felt even better getting to rep Penn State and continue our reign as champions… It’s great getting to show the beach volleyball talent Penn State has since we do not have a beach program.”
Both players are members of Penn State’s indoor men’s team. Valenzi is a member of USA Volleyball’s 2022 Beach Collegiate National Team. Merk has participated in the Beach National Team Development Program (NTDP) Training Series.
“It’s a great feeling to get the win this year after going out in the round of 16 last year,” Merk said. “We learned from it and adapted… This event is proof that men’s beach is growing and schools should start to recognize that.”
In the third-place match, second-seeded Carlos Jimenez/Jackson Arnold of Webber University beat fourth-seeded Zadyn LaBreche/Jacob Miller of Lincoln Memorial University, 2-0 (21-16, 21-16).
Now in its second year, the Men’s Beach Collegiate Challenge lets athletes represent their schools as the sport continues to grow throughout the country. Members of the NTDP Beach Scouting Network will evaluate participating athletes for an opportunity to be invited to future National Team Development Program (NTDP) events.